When thinking of exceptional road course drivers currently in the Cup Series, who is the first driver to come to your mind?
How about Clint Bowyer?
Bowyer only has one road course win in his Cup career – at Sonoma in 2012 – but he’s consistently been up front when the series ventured to the California road course.
Through 13 starts, Bower is the active leader at Sonoma in top fives (eight) and top 10s (10).
He also holds the best average finish of 10th. In three of the last four visits to the track Bowyer has placed in the top three.
“For the last several years, I have looked at that track to be the go-to track,” Bowyer said in a media release. “Since the Car of Tomorrow, it really woke up certain tracks, and Sonoma and these road courses have been some of our best products of racing. I think that is a fact. It is an opinion, but it is pretty damn close to factual.”
Despite finishing 35th at Michigan due to a crash, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver says his team has a “wave of confidence going at the moment.” Bowyer will try to ride that wave to the first win of the year for both himself and SHR.
But what could temper Bowyer’s confidence this weekend?
For the first time since 1997, the Cup Series will compete on Sonoma’s original layout, which includes a sweeping downhill corner that goes from Turn 4 down through Turns 5 and 6 to the facility’s longest straightaway before reaching the Turn 7 hairpin.
“I’m a little bit torn on this,” Bowyer said of the layout change. “I was surprised they added The Carousel back to the layout. I’m kind of old-fashioned and thought, you know, if it isn’t broke, why fix it, why touch it? And I didn’t think that track was broke at all. I think the tire and stuff has gotten a little bit too good for a track like that, but I always have thought it’s been a great product for our sport.”
Bowyer has learned tires are everything at Sonoma, as well as getting “yourself right” for the challenge of a road course.
“Mental attitude is everything,” Bowyer said. “You have to manage that racetrack, that race car, and manage traffic, make no mistakes, hit your marks, go easy on your throttle and brake pedals. You really have to take care of those four Goodyear tires because those are what will take you to victory lane if you take care of them.”
While Bowyer sees Sonoma as a prime opportunity for him, he also views the road course as the start of the important summer stretch that leads to the playoffs.
“It’s that time of year when you start looking at the standings and seeing where you need to be to make the playoffs,” said Bowyer, who is 12th in the standings. “Plus, you really want to be on a roll when the playoffs start in September. It all begins Sunday in Sonoma.”